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Skateboard, Monster, Nightmare

A skateboard documentary, short comedies and a nightmare recreated on video highlight the next Film Kitchen.

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Call him “Johnny Hero.” That’s the skateboarding — and video-making — name of an upstate New Yorker who came here for graduate school at Carnegie Mellon. He’s 27, talks about film using words like “diegetic,” and works as an inventory manager at a used book store. An excerpt of “Can You See?,” his documentary about skateboarding, screens at the July 10 installment of Film Kitchen.

Hero started making videos at 17, with his younger brother, to document skateboarding and BMX feats by their circle of friends.
“Can You See?” is shot mostly in Pittsburgh, in locations including Point State Park and the North Side riverfront. It opens with a funny, if wince-inducing, montage of skaters and riders repeatedly trying and failing jumps and other stunts, typically ending in an appointment with concrete. Voiceover interviews explain what skating offers to young guys alienated from mainstream society.

Skating “showed me what’s important in life,” says one. “And what’s important in life is making sure you do what you want, because you only have one life.”

“I could not give one good reason why I skate,” says another of Johnny’s fellow skaters. “It’s completely personal. It’s self-perseverance.”

Another adds, “I love getting hurt.”

The footage is raw — Hero edited in old-school tape-to-tape analog fashion — but with touches like artful wide-angle shots.

Hero says he made “Can You See?” to help skaters explain themselves to nonskaters. “I wanted to make something that I and everybody else could point to and say, ‘Yeah, that’s what it is,’” he says. “I wanted something they could show to their parents.”

“I used to think it was a really big small town,” says Mathew Schmidt of Pittsburgh. “Now it’s just feeling like a really huge high school.”

Like Johnny Hero, Schmidt came here from upstate New York, for school. After studying video production and digital media at the Art Institute, he stuck around. Now he’s 26, though he doesn’t sound too happy about it.

“That’s the age where I’m already supposed to have been famous and influential and died of a drug overdose,” he says.

Instead, Schmidt lives on the South Side, works a day job encoding video and makes short videos with friends, some of which will screen at the July 10 Film Kitchen. “Locked Out,” made with Jonah Oryszak, is an inventive parody of filmmaking styles, hung on a slight story. “Mat and Adam Look for Big Pink” is Schmidt’s unexpectedly poignant document of a road trip (in an ’88 Fiero) to find the famous upstate New York studio/house where The Band recorded its first album.

Then there’s “Monster.” It’s a three-minute comedy about a night in the life of a monster who explains what it’s like to be in the morphological minority. “I don’t think it’s fair to say, ‘Monsters are bad,’” says the monster (Moore in a gorilla suit). “But that’s the stigma.’”

“We went [and shot] every place we could think of that a monster might go,” says Moore, who met Schmidt at the Art Institute. “I ended up getting kicked out of the Giant Eagle.”

The Lost Girl came to Jesse Warnick in a dream — and seemed to have come for him, too. In the first episode of a planned series of short re-creations of nightmares on video, the girl summons a man from sleep: first outdoors into an eerie daylight, and then into a deserted building where an unnerving encounter takes place.

Warnick, 40, is a Washington, Pa.-based stage actor who by day works in health care. He took his idea for the nightmare series to Aaron Bernard of Tonerwoods Productions, a Pittsburgh-based multimedia company. Tonerwoods specializes in TV ads and Web sites for nonprofit groups, but Bernard is up for the challenge of exploring the subconscious: Two other dreams are in pre-production, and anyone is welcome to submit a nightmare for consideration at www.nightmareseries.com.

A Nightmare Series show, as Warnick envisions it, would feature two dreams per episode, plus analysis by psychology experts. “The Lost Girl,” directed by David Cable, screens at the July 10 Film Kitchen. Later this summer, Warnick will take it to the Pitch Festival, in Los Angeles, to drum up industry interest for a complete pilot.

Bernard thinks “The Lost Girl,” shot on high-definition video, has the right feel. “We want to make them almost documentary-style.”

Film Kitchen 8 p.m. Tue., July 10. Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., N. Oakland. $4. 412-316-3342, x178

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